Inception of an intranet

Inception of an intranet

Starting out on developing – or in many cases re-developing – an intranet can be a daunting experience. With that in mind, sharing some of our lessons learned about starting off on the right foot seems like a good idea.

Clarity of purpose

Having a ‘clarity of purpose’ may seem obvious, but having worked on a few projects where the intranet’s purpose was a little muddled at the outset, perhaps it isn’t always. Why is this? In our experience it is often because there are conflicting agendas within the organisation, each with their understandable and justifiable goals.

Having a solid understanding of what the organisation – or the project sponsor- wants and needs the intranet to do is essential. Ideally, that means having one project sponsor and one set of goals where possible….

This level of focus lets the team filter out functionality that isn’t core to unlocking the value promised in business case. That focus helps crystallise user experience decisions. It allows the team to say ‘no’ to unnecessary content and other perceived ‘benefits’ until its primary function is delivered.

That purpose comes from a solid business case with a robust prioritised roadmap (more on that in a different post). Without a clarity of purpose, we wouldn’t recommend starting an intranet project – it is better to spend the time getting clarity than spend the time doing the wrong thing.

Consider competition

Even if your colleagues have seen and understand the inherent value in a collaborative environment, they are likely to remain rooted in their old behaviour patterns – that’s completely natural. Sharing information online and engaging in a team space might new behaviour for most people in work environment. Expectations are generally pretty clear when it comes to meetings and email. Calendars and in-boxes fill up with content and commitments, and we respond accordingly.

But the online collaboration environment is a new destination, not accessible through Outlook or other usual work applications or locations. Most collaboration environments notify participants of new content via email, but even this remains a passive, reactive mode of engaging in your group’s interactions.

So perhaps start by asking colleagues to visit the shared workspace at least once a day. Encourage them to add information that might be useful to the group. This could be something as mundane as a Facebook-like update on their state of mind that day. This simple update goes a long way to building relationships and humanising the work environment.

Then once your group is up and running, why not look toward game play (or gamification – sorry!) techniques to help drive up usage? (Naturally such things are best planned at the outset.). The psychology of games and the role that they play in intranets is something that will be covered in another post, but our experience is that they are – and will be – essential to getting participation.


A while back Harvard Business Review published an article about the best way to sell an idea of a movie to a producer. The authors studied the different approaches to selling, the conclusion was that the most successful way was to create something that wasn’t finished and engage the producer in the pitch meeting to help complete it. So giving them co-ownership rights to – and pride in – the idea.

This is definitely a technique that works well with influential/power users of a future intranet too. Identify the influential minority and ask them to contribute in coming up with the answer. They will feel ownership and help you get others on board. 

Consumerisation of IT

This is a topic that’s been around for the last two years – there have been posts on it here previously. It’s generally defined ‘as the use of technologies that can easily be provisioned by non-technologists’ – or put another, and simpler, way – technology that feels as friendly as an app that you or I might use every day. Naturally there are pros and cons here, see this CIO article. And whilst we aren’t suggesting that every intranet needs to be like Facebook, certainly not acting and looking like a standard installation of SharePoint is a must!


Just about keeping the alliteration going….if you take a walk up and down a business inter-city train or a packed bus, you will probably see between half and three-quarters of traveller tapping away on a mobile device or some sort. The conclusions are obvious: a ‘mobile first’ has to be adopted for intranet.



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